Isabella Plantation is a stunning 40 acre woodland garden set within a Victorian plantation in the centre of London’s Richmond Park. In this post, I’ll share the latest spring updates to see the azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom and general tips for visiting year round.
First opened to the public in 1953, Isabella Plantation is classified as part of the broader parkland Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is run on organic principles with wildlife in mind. While Isabella Plantation was first enclosed in 1831, some trees in the garden, ancient oak pollards, pre-date the enclosure in 1637.
This beautiful woodland garden is well known for its evergreen azaleas that line the ponds and streams. Isabella Plantation also contains large and important collections of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias. Bluebells flower in naturalised drifts around the woodland garden.
The ponds and streams in Isabella Plantation are fed from a natural supply of water pumped from Pen Ponds in the heart of Richmond Park. The ponds are home to a wide range of birds including mallard, coot, moorhen and Mandarin duck.
Best Time to Visit
While Isabella Plantation is wonderful to visit year round, the woodland garden is particularly well known as one of the best places to visit in London for spring flowers. The best time to visit Isabella Plantation to see the evergreen azaleas and rhododendrons at their peak of flower is late April and early to mid May, when the woodland garden bursts into a riot of colour with beautiful shades of pink, red and purple.
There are a several types of evergreen azaleas to look out for while exploring Isabella Plantation: ‘Orange Beauty’ which are the most orange, ‘Rosebud’ which has opening buds that resemble tiny roses, ‘Palestrina’ which is white with a faint ray of green, ‘Vuk’s Scarlet’ which has large, deep red silky flowers and ‘Hinode Giri’, which are the bright crimson ones that can be seen at the Still Pond (shown above).
Isabella Plantation 2021 Photos
I have been on azalea watch at Isabella Plantation in April and May and have been adding recent photos to this post, most recently from a visit on 27 May 2021. The Heather Garden, next to Peg’s Pond, and the Bog Garden, between Peg’s Pond and Thomson’s Pond, are wonderful to see in late spring / summer. Part of the YouTube shorts below is a stroll in the spring sunshine through Isabella Plantation passing by the Heather Garden and Bog Garden.
28 May 2021
18 May 2021
The evergreen azaleas at the Still Pond are almost completely in full bloom.
Today I took a different route from Broomfield Hill Gate. Instead of turning left to go to the Still Pond, I headed straight to walk to Thomson Pond (290m). Right at Broomfield Hill Gate, this vibrant display of yellow will certainly catch your eye – this is a deciduous azalea, Azalea pontica, and has a rich, spicy scent.
The path from Broomfield Hill Gate to Thomson Pond is lovely for seeing the bluebell woods which are looking stunning even now in mid-May.
Lots more colour this visit at Thomson’s Pond, most of the azaleas are flowering in this spot and it’s looking stunning. Always a pleasure to see the Mandarin ducks there.
The views along the streams are amazing, with the shuttlecock ferns unfurling amidst the stunning colours.
Isabella Plantation is one of the best places to see rhododendrons in London. They are looking magnificent now throughout the woodland garden.
11 May 2021
Beautiful azaleas at the Still Pond, with still more to bloom. This is gorgeous spot to take reflection shots.
Looking from the path down the Main Stream. Amazing colour along the streams now, with so many stunning spots to take photos.
The azaleas around Thomson Pond are also nearly in full bloom. The views around the pond are stunning.
There’s an open green space, Thomson’s Lawn, next to the pond where you can relax and enjoy a picnic.
Take the path from Thomson’s Lawn (heading towards Broomfield Hill gate) to see the beautiful bluebells in the wooded area along the Bluebell Walk and at Wilson’s Glade.
7 May 2021
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I’ve also posted a short video, an Instagram reel (shown below), recently from a visit to Isabella Plantation in early May. I’ll continue to post updates here and on my Instagram page.
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Isabella Plantation is in the centre of Richmond Park, just south of Pen Ponds. The closest vehicle gate is Kingston Gate and the closest pedestrian gate is Ladderstile Gate. The closest car park is Broomfield Hill car park (5 minutes away), on the park’s south eastern perimeter. Isabella Plantation is a 30 minute walk from Pembroke Lodge and Petersham Park car park, a 25 minute walk from Kingston Gate and a 15 minute walk from Ladderstile Gate.
Click the map below for a larger image. You can also download a PDF of the Isabella Plantation map from the Richmond Park website.
The red dotted trail is one of the best routes to see the azaleas and rhododendrons. If you’re entering from the Broomfield Hill gate, walk ahead until you round a corner and see a log on your left that is marked with “Still Pond” and an arrow. That is the beginning of the red dotted trail and takes you along the Camellia walk, around the back of the Still Pond, and along the small stream.
Depending on how much time you have, you can decide which other parts of the trail to follow. Walk along the Main Stream and head to Thomson’s Pond to see more azaleas and rhododendrons.
Follow the red dotted trail after Thomson’s Lawn to see bluebells along the Bluebell Walk and at Wilson’s Glade.
Isabella Plantation Café
The Isabella Plantation Café is a food and drink kiosk in the Broomfield Hill car park. The café kiosk is open from 9am and serves pastries, snacks, hot and cold beverages and some hot food.
Isabella Plantation Information
Address: Richmond Park, Richmond TW10 5HS
Opening Hours: open daily from dusk to dawn. Richmond Park is open to vehicles from 7:00 am in the summer and 7:30 am in the winter
Car Park: The main car park is at Broomfield Hill, on the park’s south eastern perimeter, closest to Kingston Gate. Peg’s Pond car park is a dedicated car park for those with disabilities and is open all week and also at weekends, and can be accessed from Richmond Gate, Ham Gate or Kingston Gate 7 days a week. During spring and summer, I’d recommend getting to Richmond Park by 10am if you want to use the car park during the weekends.
Facilities: There are two toilet facilities in Isabella Plantation, both with wheelchair accedsible cubicles: one is near Still Pond and one is by Peg’s Pond gate. The toilet at Still Pond is open between April and November. The toilet at Peg’s Pond is open year round and also has a baby change facility.
This post was updated on 28 May 2021 with recent photos and video.
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